Educating Students for Success – A New MBAE Study

| Linda M. Noonan, Executive Director, Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education

Education Students MBAE

In Massachusetts, there is one graduate with a bachelors degree in IT/CS to every 17 open jobs in IT/CS. Promoting computer science is a priority — and one that is easy to accomplish if we all work together. Which is why Microsoft New England is  pleased to welcome Executive Director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance of Education (MBAE), Linda M. Noonan, to guest blog about the MBAE’s latest findings.
~Aimee Sprung, Civic Engagement Manager – Microsoft New England.

STEM education got a boost when K-12 education standards for English Language Arts started being incorporated into science and technical subjects to ensure that students are able to independently build knowledge in these disciplines through reading and writing. This shift to ensuring students grasp information, arguments, ideas, and details based on evidence in the text has been underway in Massachusetts since 2011, and has received positive feedback from educators.

Now, it’s time to introduce assessments aligned to these standards and another opportunity exists to integrate STEM education into these updates. As part of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) multi-state consortium, Massachusetts is field-testing new tests that would replace the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exams.

The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), an organization that has worked for over two decades to influence state policy with the goal of better preparing students for success in a global economy and society, just released an analysis of how the PARCC and MCAS tests compare as indicators of college- and career- readiness. The results might surprise you.

Our research found a large proportion of the items on the tenth grade MCAS test measure middle school learning. On the 2014 test, a student earning all of the points possible on the middle school items needed only 4 additional points (out of 60) on items aligned to the high school standards for his or her performance to be classified at the Proficient level.  It is clear that we need to bring our 20th century assessment into the 21st!

PARCC shows great promise for achieving this goal. PARCC establishes a “college and career readiness bar” that may be considered high enough to allow students to bypass public college entrance exams. PARCC’s content is also considered to be of higher order—prompting students to problem-solve and draw conclusions. It has the potential to give educators, families and students a more realistic and honest indication of whether they are on course to meet college and career demands.

Although there are more questions to be answered by this spring’s PARCC field tests, the public discussion about new assessments is already underway. It is one that everyone concerned about STEM skills and education should be part of.


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